Medical Molder Plans NPE2018 Debut Of Quick-Launch Program for New Products

Synergy of tooling, molding, and metrology lead Octex Group to propose a new paradigm for product launches.

My profile of Octex Group in Sarasota, Fla., for an On-Site cover story in next month’s issue (sneak preview here) is largely a story about transformation. A company that started out as a commodity custom injection molder of cups, lids, and handles began in 2014 to remake itself into a high-tech supplier to the most demanding customers in medical, aerospace, defense, and automotive industries.

At the same time, it evolved into a business (under $50 million) that’s about much more than molding. A good part of a $10 million program to expand, upgrade, and re-envision the company has gone into building two sister companies to provide world-class moldmaking and metrology services—Choice Tool & Mold and Omnia Scientific, respectively.

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These synergistic capabilities—tooling, molding, and metrology— have led Octex Group to propose a new paradigm for product launches. Called Launchpad, Octex claims it can offer 40-90% reduction in tool-build time, 45-75% reduction in tool cost, and 60% reduction in time to market. As shown in the accompanying graphic, the usual process can easily take 45 weeks from the start of design validation through production tool build, tool qualification, and production process and validation development. With the new process, spearheaded by Omnia Scientific, that process can be collapsed to 30-35 weeks.

The difference, explains Octex CEO John Hoskins, is that the different phases of the launch process are typically handled by different groups with different cultures—resulting in “loss of fidelity,” as he puts it. “But we have all the pieces of the puzzle under our roof. So we can conduct different phases concurrently. Our goal is to compress the usual eight- to 12-week tool-build process into just three weeks. This is what OEMs have been begging for.”

A key element of Launchpad is what Hoskins calls “real-time first-article inspection.” This service results from major investments in a CT scanning system for Omnia Scientific, and in a high-capacity, fiber-optic data network feeding a central supercomputer data hub for the whole group.

As explained by Octex Group chief scientist Brett Wigton, who designed the IT system, a CT scan takes 1 hr for each of the 32 cavities in a medical mold. That’s 32 hr to collect the data. Wigton says it then usually takes weeks more to process the “point cloud” of data and resolve it into dimensional measurements. “That’s weeks to obtain usable data—versus 5 minutes for us.” He says there was no software available to do this, so Octex wrote its own. So “real-time” in this case means, “As fast as we can scan, we can get usable data. We can load all 32 point clouds and 10 sec later, we start getting measurements.”

This is the key to competitiveness for Octex. Says Hoskins, “I can’t fight somebody who has nine plants and 2000 machines. But I can do things nobody else can. Others just want the manufacturing part; they see validation as a nuisance. For us it’s a core strategy.”

Adds Wigton, “We have competitors in molding, in metrology, in tooling. But not all three together. That means we can do all the qualifications here, so the customer gets into production faster.”

“And what do customers really want?” asks Hoskins. “To get new, innovative products to market faster than ever before.”

Octex plans to introduce Launchpad in May at NPE2018 in Orlando, Fla., at booths S31090 and S31137.

Meanwhile, Octex has dedicated a white-room area in the molding plant to Launch Center 34, a demonstration facility for Launchpad. Still being outfitted, it will have initially four new Engel and KraussMaffei presses and, four more are planned. The machine builders will use this as a demo area to show other customers their newest machines, Hoskins says.